President Barack Obama accepts a signed basketball from Miami Heat forward LeBron James as he welcomes the the NBA basketball champion Miami Heat, to the East Room of the White House, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama honored the Miami Heat for winning the 2012 NBA Championship title after falling short just a year before.
"Everybody doing their part, is what finally put the Heat over the top," Obama said, as he welcomed the team to the White House Monday to celebrate their victory.
The Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in the NBA Finals last June.
The president also recognized the franchise's work off the court. He thanked them for supporting military service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Obama said one of the things he's proudest of is that many of the team members— including LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade— "take their roles as fathers seriously."
"For all the young men out there who are looking up to them all the time, for them to see somebody who cares about their kids and is there for them day in and day out, that's a good message to send," Obama said.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team hopefully will serve as an inspiration to the nation of what can be done "when you come together and sacrifice your egos for a greater goal" and "hard-hat work ethic."
James, who presented Obama with an autographed basketball, said the team including members that hail from Illinois, Texas, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota were honored to be in the executive mansion.
"We're in the White House right now, which is like, like 'mama I made it,'" James said, as the audience laughed and cheered.
The crowd of well-wishers included actress Gabrielle Union, U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson. The Heat last visited the White House after winning the 2006 title.
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